Leading the News
Trump Orders To Roll Back Emissions, Water Rules.
The Washington Post (2/20, Eilperin, Mufson) reports President Trump is preparing two executive orders that “will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards.” According to unnamed sources, the first order will instruct the EPA to begin rewriting limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities and will instruct BLM to immediately lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing. The second order will instruct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revamp the Waters of the United States rule, which restricts waterways development as well as some farming operations that impact smaller or intermittent bodies of water.
Bloomberg News (2/16, Dlouhy) reported that opponents say that the changes would mark a reversal in the role the US plays internationally on climate change. John Coequyt, global climate policy director for the Sierra Club, said, “If Trump does follow through, it would mean he is declaring open season on our air, water and climate while further destabilizing our role in the world.”
College Students Take Part In Johns Hopkins Hackathon.
The Baltimore Sun (2/19) reports that teams of students from colleges across the US competed in Johns Hopkins University’s biannual HopHacks hackathon event on Sunday, building “software to help people seek out money lenders from remote parts of the world, even if they can’t read or write. An app that uses technology known as augmented reality to help the elderly fix their printers or log into their Facebook accounts. A program that maps out President Donald Trump’s personal connections through an analysis of news articles.” The Sun explains that a hackathon is en event “in which engineers compete to build the most inventive and useful software applications over a sleep-deprived, Red Bull-fueled weekend.”
Illinois Program Aims To Keep Local Minority STEM Students Close To Home After Graduation.
The Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register (2/20) runs a piece on the Grow Our Own Minority Participation Program, a partnership between engineering firm Hanson Professional Services, the city of Springfield, Illinois, and Sangamon County, which “started three years ago in the midst of debates about minority hiring for Springfield’s rail Consolidation Project.” The piece profiles Nick Moore, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville engineering graduate from Springfield who “says he probably wouldn’t have returned to Springfield after college if not for his internship with the local firm that he found through the Grow Our Own Minority Participation Program.”
Research and Development
DHS Funds Projects Aimed At Countering DDoS Cyberattacks.
The Hill (2/17, Chalfant) reports on new research being funded by the Department of Homeland Security to counter distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, of the type that “brought down Twitter, PayPal and other websites last year.” Several projects with this goal were announced Thursday by the agency’s Science and Technology Directorate. Cybersecurity research project Daniel Massey said, “The goal of the DDoS project is to build effective and easily implemented network defenses and promote adoption of best practices by the private sector to bring about an end to the scourge of DDoS attacks.”
West Virginia University Researchers Developing Portable Wearable PET Scanner.
The Springfield (MA) Republican (2/19) reports that West Virginia University Assistant Professor Julie Brefczynski-Lewis is working on expanding on the wearable electronic trend by creating what she and her research team call “the world’s first portable, wearable positron emission tomography (PET) scanner that obtains ‘live’ internal depictions of the human brain working while a person walks or is involved in other physical movement.” Researchers say the technology “holds great promise for looking deeper and more completely into an active human brain, potentially paving the way for advancements in understanding and, eventually, curing brain-based ailments ranging from Parkinson’s disease to dementia.” The researchers unveiled the technology at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
Clemson Researchers Looking To Improve Dosimeters.
The Greenville (SC) News (2/18) reports that Clemson University researchers are investigating “electronic traps that are found in materials used for the detection and measurement of ionizing radiation.” Luiz Jacobsohn, the assistant professor in Clemson’s Department of Material Science and Engineering who is leading the work, says that the research “could mean a future with safer medical imaging, tighter national security and even more efficient lighting.” The project involves research on dosimeters, “which measure the amount of accumulated ionizing radiation absorbed, and scintillators, which display luminescence, or light, when exposed to ionizing radiation.”
Pentagon Program Lets Students Design Military Tech.
The Washington Post (2/19, Gregg) reports that while the US military “usually develops its advanced technology in classified labs staffed by gigantic defense companies,” a DOD program called Hacking for Defense (H4D) “is a graduate school course designed to let students invent new products for the military. Students without security clearances — including some foreign nationals — are put to work on unclassified versions of real-world problems faced by military and intelligence agencies.” The program was piloted at Stanford University last spring, and is expanding to at least 12 other schools.
For-Profit Schools Seeing A Resurgence Under Trump.
The New York Times (2/20, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports that “for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak” as “officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it.” Education Secretary DeVos “is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures.”
NYTimes A1: NYU Announces Plans To Help Students Cut Cost By Graduating Sooner.
The New York Times (2/17, A1, Harris, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that New York University on Friday announced a number of measures to help undergraduates complete their education in less than four years, which the Times says is “part of an initiative aimed at diminishing the university’s enormous affordability problem.” According to the head of the university’s affordability steering committee Ellen Schall, the school already graduates about 20 percent of its undergraduates ahead of schedule. She said, “We were surprised. …That’s part of what convinced us we needed to make this more transparent and more available to more students.” This includes an effort to increase 2-credit coursework to help fill credit gaps in what students pay for and “will also allow many students to transfer in up to eight credits from other schools.”
Georgia Researchers Suggest Proactive Interventions Increased College Graduation Rates.
Georgia State University researchers “spent four years analyzing students’ grades, test scores and other information in order to identify those in potential trouble, and promptly assisted them,” the AP (2/20) reports. The researchers claimed their proactive interventions helped increase the school’s graduation rate by 30 percent. The study’s principal investigator, GSU enrollment management and student success vice president Timothy Renick, called the gains “really encouraging” and added, “Because of these proactive interventions all students benefited, but the students who benefited the most were first generation, low-income and students of color.” ED awarded Renick with “a four-year $8.9 million grant that will significantly expand his study,” and Renick launched a project last year that “will involve 10,000 low-income and first generation students at Georgia State and 10 other large public research universities.”
AP Analysis Details Universities’ Use Of Private Planes.
The AP (2/20) compiles information it requested “from dozens of public universities and found that at least 20 own or share ownership of planes for school business, often employing a few full-time pilots to fly them.” Furthermore, many other universities “charter private flights through outside companies.” Colleges are increasingly using private planes to “try to attract athletes, raise money and reward coaches with jet-set vacations.” The universities said despite the costs of the private planes, the practice enables efficient and effective travel for officials, coaches, and administrators. Yet, Center for College Affordability and Productivity director Richard Vedder criticized the trend. “The students are paying for it or the taxpayers are paying for it, and it’s usually the students,” Vedder explained. Some schools, such as Ohio State, apply private donations and athletic revenue to cover the costs of the flights. Many other public universities, however, allocate the costs in “budgets that include tuition and tax dollars.”
Maryland HBCUs Join Coalition Partnering With DOE To Advance Research In Energy.
The Baltimore Sun (2/20, Prudente) reports Coppin and Morgan state universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore “have joined a national coalition of historically black colleges” working with the Energy Department “to foster joint research projects, student internships and expanded access to solar power.” Last month “the coalition signed a memorandum of understanding” with DOE “to request grant funding for research projects.” In addition, the agreement is “intended to help increase the number of graduates from historically black colleges who work in science, technology, engineering and math.” In a statement Morgan’s vice president for research and economic development Victor McCrary said, “This coalition opens the door for an era of cooperation among the HBCUs and the Department of Energy.”
NYTimes Analysis: Oil Companies Hire Fewer, Higher-Skilled Employees.
According to the New York Times (2/19, Krauss, Subscription Publication), the crash in oil prices led companies to adopt remote and automation technologies that have led to a 30 percent drop in oil jobs from the 2014 peak. Oil companies rely on a smaller workforce with skills in data analysis, computer science, mathematics, robotic design, and communications. New technologies make activities such as drilling, finding leaks, and checking tank levels possible from remote locations and put data quickly in the hand of expert analysts, changes that have led to increased safety and production.
Uber Hires Former AG Holder To Probe Sexual Harassment Claims.
Reuters (2/20) reports that Uber Technologies Inc has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder “to conduct a review of sexual harassment claims at the ride-hailing service made by a former employee.” Holder and Tammy Albarran, both partners at the law firm Covington & Burling, “will look into the complaints about a manager at Uber, as well as general questions about diversity and inclusion, Chief Executive Travis Kalanick told his employees in a memo on Monday.” Reuters notes that last year, Airbnb hired Holder “to help craft a policy to combat discrimination occurring through the online lodging service’s platform.”
President Trump Celebrates American Manufacturing At Boeing 787-10 Unveiling.
The Washington Post (2/17, Phillip, Ehrenfreund) reported that President Trump attended a ceremony on Friday marking the unveiling of the Dreamliner 787-10 at Boeing’s South Carolina facility, during which he vowed to “fight for every last American job” and to dedicate his administration to defending US manufacturing. President Trump said, “We’re here today to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing. … We’re also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs!” Similarly, CBS News (2/17, Sherter) reported that Trump “touted Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner as a sign of a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S.” CBS added that Boeing’s shares jumped 1.1 percent on Friday after Trump’s visit. The AP (2/17, Boak) reported Trump “proudly referenced the evolution of airplanes as proof of U.S. competitiveness” and “hailed it as a sign of steps toward generating more U.S factory jobs.”
The New York Times (2/17, Thrush, Subscription Publication) reported that Trump embraced the “photo op” in front of the new jetliner, and “could not have chosen a more impressive backdrop to emphasize his commitment to preserving jobs.” Reuters (2/17, Mason) reported that although the President has “feuded” with Boeing, he “gave a ringing endorsement to the company” as he “used the event to highlight his pitch to boost homegrown job growth,” and praised the aircraft as “an amazing piece of art.”
Trump Suggests Potential Large Purchase Of F/A-18s. Bloomberg News (2/17, Talev, Johnsson) reported that Trump also “suggested that a larger purchase of Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Super Hornet may be in the offing.” He said, “We are looking seriously at a big order,” but acknowledged Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg “is a tough negotiator.” USA Today (2/17, Jackson, Jansen) noted that the President “has threatened to buy F-18 fighters because the rival F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin was too expensive.” However, Trump told reporters on Friday the cost of the F-35 program had been “out of control,” but “now it’s very much in control.’”
Engineering and Public Policy
“Hundreds” Attend Protest Against Trump’s Science Policies.
The Boston Globe (2/19, Ransom, Guerra) reports from Boston that “hundreds of people attended a rally in Copley Square Sunday in a call to fight against President Trump’s efforts to discredit science.” The protest “coincided with a gathering of thousands of scientists in Boston for the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting at the Hynes Convention Center.” The Washington Post (2/19, Mooney) says those in attendance demanded “that the Trump administration accept empirical reality on issues such as climate change and highlighting the centrality of objective information to making policy.” The Post adds, “As these were scientists marching, the event naturally featured some colorful signs, reading ‘Objective Reality Exists,’ ‘Make America Smart Again,’ and ‘Poetry Nerds for Science.’” The Hill (2/19, Calfas) notes that “some” of the protesters were “wearing white lab coats.”
Sportsmen Groups Working With Environmentalists Against Opening More Public Lands To Energy Development.
Reuters (2/17, Volcovici, Knox) reports “Outdoor sporting groups” and “liberal environmentalists” are cooperating in opposition to moves to transfer federal lands to state ownership, and President Trump’s “push to open more public lands to energy development.” Reuters says that Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Outdoor Alliance both have been given large grants from “liberal foundations” mentioning the Turner Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Reuters points out that Donald Trump Jr., is “a lifetime member” of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
Army Corps Of Engineers Ends Environmental Study On Dakota Access Pipeline.
The AP (2/17, Nicholson) reports the Army Corps of Engineers Friday “formally ended” its “environmental study” of the Dakota Access pipeline crossing beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota, a reservoir on the Missouri River. The study was started January 18 in response to “concerns from the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes.” Energy Transfer Partners, which received permission to make the crossing February 8, has said the pipeline may be operational in March.
WPost Analysis: Scientists Concerned Trump Administration May Cut Research Funding.
A Washington Post (2/18, Mooney) analysis examines concerns of scientists that the Trump Administration may cut back on science research. The Heritage Foundation has proposed to eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which the Post says would be a “major blow to renewable energy research.” Comparing these fears to some raised during the Bush Administration, the piece also points out that research funding was not cut back then. On Sunday, some of these scientists will march in Copley Square, Boston in an event dubbed “a rally to stand up for science.”
NYTimes Analysis: Nuclear Power Has “Murky Future” In US.
The New York Times (2/18, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports on the “murky future of nuclear power in the United States” pointing out that while there had been plans “for a new atomic age, in part to help tame a warming global climate,” those plans now may be at “an end, capped in recent days by Toshiba’s decision to take a $6 billion loss and pull Westinghouse…out of the construction business.” The Times points out that “only the Tennessee Valley Authority, itself a government corporation, has been able to bring a new nuclear reactor into operation in the last 20 years.”
Thune: GOP Will Approach Internet, Driverless Car Regulation With “Light Touch.”
The New York Times (2/19, Kang, Subscription Publication) publishes an edited interview with Senator John Thune, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, in which he discusses the Republican-led Congress’ moves to address Obama-era tech policies. Thune says lawmakers are looking to scale back FCC overreach of classifying the Internet as a utility and approach regulation with a “light touch.” He also favors having the FCC to take action first to encourage Democrats to increase GOP-led legislation and streamlining broadband privacy rules. Ensuring the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes Internet connection for low-income families is efficiently run and decreasing barriers to driverless cars are also important goals, says Thune.
Carnegie Mellon University Hosts Inaugural “Explore Engineering!” Festival.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2/20) reports Carnegie Mellon University hosted its inaugural “Explore Engineering!” festival on Sunday. Thousands of students in grades K-12 gathered for “an afternoon of hands-on demos and interactive activities designed to expose kids to a variety of engineering disciplines.” The Engineering Research Accelerator impacts program at Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering “does a lot of programs to share its research with the community, and is equally committed feeding the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pipeline at the elementary, middle school and high school level with more hands-on, inquiry-based learning.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Signs Measure Ending Stream Protection Rule.
• ED Recommends Renewal For Embattled Accreditor.
• Researchers Develop High-Tech Mosquito Trap.
• Alexa Could Take Over IT Management.
• Analysts Expect iPhone 8 To Feature 5.8-Inch Flexible Display, Facial Recognition Technology.
• New Coalition Calls For More Federal And Private Infrastructure Dollars.
• CEO Responds To Seven-Year-Old Girl Who Wants To Work At Google.